Boxing gym helps people with Parkinson's Disease fight back

When these boxers walk into Lake Norman Muay Thai they are all fighting the same enemy: Parkinson’s Disease.

The Mooresville boxing gym holds Rock Steady classes to help those diagnosed with the neurological disease. Each year there are around 60,000 new cases across the country. While there’s no cure, the class is combating the effects of the Parkinson’s. 

Reggie Oswalt, 83, gives it his all. “No way did I ever think I’d be boxing,” explained Oswalt who tries not to miss a class. Six years ago he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. The disease can cause tremors and difficulty moving.

“I love it because it keeps me moving. If you don’t keep moving and you just sit back in the recliner you can sit there and die,” said Oswalt.

“Think about what these patients struggle with. Agility, hand eye coordination and balance. What are boxer good at? Agility, hand eye coordination and balance,” explained JT Smith. Smith offers the class at his gym. He realized there was the opportunity to offer the class, and word spread quickly. He’s up to 13 boxers and more want into the class.

“You don’t worry about people in this class being lazy. The only way they get results is if they exert themselves and give it their all,” said Smith.

Coaches, boxers and volunteers assigned to each boxer rotate through stations. Each of the boxers are at a different level of the disease. They stretch to help with the stiffness. They punch to steady tremors and footwork for balance.

While the boxers are working out their biggest fans cheer them on.

“We’re like a big family,” said Beulah Brewer. Her husband of 56 years, Tony, is in the class.

“It means a lot. I’ve made friends with the wives and I’ve even made friends with their husbands,” said Brewer. She says the class gave her husband an excuse to get out of the house and go somewhere other than to a doctor’s appointment.

Boxers like Reggie say the exercises are making a difference.

“When I first came in here I had a walker. Now, I’m down to a cane and if I had a little more confidence I would throw away the cane,” said Reggie.

He is gaining confidence.

“Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee,” he said while punching a bag. Reggie knows he’s not alone in this fight. Instead, they are all in the same fight against the same enemy.

“I’m very thankful God laid it on his heart for him to open up a class for us people with Parkinson’s,” said Reggie.

Lake Norman Muay Thai is looking to start a second class and needs more volunteers to help the boxers.